UW Alumni & Former AcaBella: Whitney Chen

This week we got in touch with a UW alumni. Take a look into the life of previous AcaBella do-it-aller, Whitney Chen!


Hometown: Brampton, ON

Program & Graduating Term: Environment & Business, Winter 2017


What are the AcaBellas?

The AcaBellas are UW’s main (and currently only) all-female a cappella group. We were founded in 2009 with just 7 members, and today we have over 120 alumna (and growing!) with an average group size of 15-20 members per semester. The Bellas love singing, performing, dancing, beatboxing, eating, and just having fun in general – if you’ve watched Pitch Perfect, then the Barden Bellas are pretty much us IRL, down to competing at the International Championship for Collegiate A Cappella (except we’ve never barfed on stage … and they stole the Bellas name from us BTW).  


How did you get involved with the AcaBellas?  

In my first year at Clubs and Societies Day, the UW A Cappella Club had a booth where I signed up to be a part of ACE, the open co-ed a cappella group on campus. I had no idea back then that the Bellas were a thing or how great a cappella was; I just wanted to continue singing from high school! It was a little tough in the beginning because ACE had so many members and I was pretty shy, but by the time the End of Term Concert rolled around, I had made lots of friends and was set on coming back.

Unfortunately, the following term I had class on the night that ACE rehearsed, so one of my new friends told me to audition for the Bellas. He sent me all the info and I went for my audition … and the rest is history!

What was your role?

Over the years I’ve been Co-President and VP External, and for the past year I was elected as President. My duties for all three titles have been pretty similar – I helped keep the group running by preparing weekly announcements for members, reaching out to other clubs and associations for potential performance opportunities, maintaining finances and other records, and managing all social media, among other things. In the past I’ve also helped teach new executives the ropes and written a detailed guide outlining various operational tasks.


What was your favourite part about the club?

Definitely the people! Through the Bellas I’ve made so many best friends that I’ve kept in touch with over the years, and that I’m certain I’ll keep in touch with years from now too. Older Bellas have been stellar role models and given me lots of advice, and in turn, I am happy to pass wisdom onto the younger baby Bellas and to see them succeed. Plus you get to meet so many different (and cool!) people from all years and kinds of programs throughout the entire UW A Cappella Club, and that wide exposure is something that not a lot of students ever get.


What are some of the responsibilities of the members in the club?

All members in the UW A Cappella Club primarily work towards the club’s End of Term Concert which is held before exam season every semester. Therefore each member is expected to come to each rehearsal (usually held once every week) with their music prepared. As the term progresses, we expect music to be memorized so we can learn some choreography (nothing as complicated as what UW Hip Hop does though). We also expect members to attend gigs and other performances throughout the term.

What types of activities does the club do on/off campus?

Publicly, we perform at all kinds of events both on and off campus, such as at coffeehouses, bonfire nights, and presentations. For example, in the past we’ve had collaborations with the various Feds services (GLOW and the Women’s Centre, ICSN, etc.), the KW Art Gallery, and Kitchener Public Library, and this term we’ll be making an appearance at TEDxUW for the first time ever. We also host our own AcaBellas End of Term Concert every semester if you can’t get enough of us! And finally, the Bellas do have some member-only events (although these tend to be more casual socials such as dinners, sleepovers, and board game sessions).  

On the other hand, the UW A Cappella Club hosts their own larger End of Term Concert featuring all the a cappella groups on campus. They also host workshops on singing, performance, arranging music, and beatboxing that are available to anyone in the community.  


What advice would you give to a student looking to take on a leadership role with the AcaBellas?

Don’t be afraid to step up! It can definitely feel intimidaing stepping into an executive role in either the Bellas or the UW A Cappella Club, however there are resources available to help you as well as other methods to gradually ease into a leadership position. For example, consider becoming a section leader and taking charge at sectionals, or volunteer to be the ombudsperson for the term and pass on any anonymous feedback from other members.

At the same time though, don’t get carried away and sign up to do several roles – start with one and see how you manage the workload in addition to your other commitments, otherwise you might end up taking on too much. Having time to yourself is important too!


How can someone join the AcaBellas and/ or stay informed?

Auditions for the Bellas and the other a cappella groups tend to take place within the first two weeks of every term. You can stay updated on when sign-ups open up (or just in general) by liking our Facebook page or emailing [email protected]. And for more information about the other a cappella groups and to keep updated on when ticket sales for the End of Term Concert begin, check out the UW A Cappella Club’s Facebook page!  

Now that you’ve graduated, what are your next steps or what are you currently doing?

Since I’ve finished with school, I took a break over the summer to fully enjoy performing a cappella one last time and to focus on looking for a full-time job. This week I just accepted an offer to work at a small yet rapidly growing B2B company in downtown Kitchener, and I’m super excited to start!


What is your motto/ favourite quote?

“And God said ‘love your enemy’, and I obeyed him and loved myself.” –Kahlil Gibran


What’s one piece of advice you would give to prospective female graduates?

Try out as many new things as you can before you graduate! While I don’t regret devoting so much time and energy to a cappella, I do wish I had also pursued other things as well such as auditioning for Fashion for Change, volunteering for the Student Food Bank or MATES, or taking salsa dance lessons. Sure, you can do some of these things once you’re done with school, but there are actually so many opportunities available to you as a university student that “expire” when you graduate (for example, internships with certain companies, or working with Feds). And plus, your time in university is pretty much the last time in your life when you’re surrounded by so many like-minded people that are your age – so make the most of it!


Message from Whitney:

Absolutely feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn to ask any questions about being in Environment and Business or a cappella … or beyond!